—Ronald Edwin Lane, Colfax
I’m a fish
I’m a clown
I’m a hummingbird?
BROAD STREET, STAPLETON, 1938
—Michael Estabrook, Acton, MA
“It’s a picture of your father.”
“The picture I sent you,
the one I got from Eileen Ferry,
the one from the calendar she had,
printed by the Advance.
Right here it says,
‘Broad Street, Stapleton, 1938.’
And it’s Daddy on a bicycle
between two girls I don’t know.”
I rub my eyes, can’t believe
there’s a photo of my father
that I am unaware of.
Ever since he died 40 years ago
I’ve been collecting everything
I could find about him.
But this calendar page my Mom sent,
I can tell immediately it is not Dad,
not close to being my Dad.
So I call her back, “Mom, this not Dad,
not close to being my Dad. He’s much older
than Dad would’ve been back in 1938,
hairline too far back, eyes too close together.”
She’s quiet for a while, then responds,
“Well OK, you must be right.
I don’t have any pictures of him
around here anymore you know.
A mystery solved too, seeing as
I didn’t know who these two girls were
riding bicycles with him.”
DREAM ABOUT GRANDPA FRED
a beach, sandy white, clean
Grandpa’s there with me squatted down
on his haunches the way he always was,
and he’s smoking,
he was always smoking,
there’s talk of a shark close in near the shore, a big one,
but he doesn’t believe it, shakes his head, “no, no,
here, take the beach ball with you into the water.”
he drags on his Piedmont cigarette
and blows the pale gray smoke
out into the clean light-blue beach air
staring at me until I smile and head
into the ocean clutching
the beach ball in my hands,
eyes scanning the surface for that ominous fin
Early gray morning sun,
a smudge in the sky,
nudges the city awake,
men bearing attaché cases stride along
in business suits, women carry purses,
a garbage truck throbs,
a tired bus spews smoke,
an occasional taxi horn honking.
I cannot yet hear any birds.
But I know there will be some
soon hoping about in the patches
of dirt beneath the few trees
guarding the street,
pecking, pecking, searching for food.
Yesterday in a crisp sky,
above a clutter of old buildings
I saw birds, a formation of ducks flying,
or maybe they were geese,
so pretty nevertheless, symmetrical
and precise as a Michelangelo drawing.
Out along the fire escape I notice
Lynn’s row of flowerpots
with their dead flowers, brown leaves,
shrunken, wilted, hanging
lifeless and limp,
on this February morning in the City,
and think about spring,
wondering where the ducks, or the geese,
were going so early in the day.
ALPHA-MALE ON THE BEACH
Yesterday the water was cold
and the waves choppy, but I went in anyway,
I went all the way in anyway,
the only one in.
I swam along the shoreline,
half a mile or so, my wife and granddaughter
following along on the beach.
“Wow,” her eyes sparkled, “You were like
a triathlete out there.” She took
my hand, so proud of me.
So today, the same situation, only with
the water even colder, the waves choppier.
When things calmed down, everyone finished
with their snacks and flying their kites,
I stood from my beach chair,
stretched like a waking bear,
swung my arms around and around
over my head so everyone could see me,
flapped them like Michael Phelps does
before he dives in.
Then I popped in my ear plugs,
strode out solemnly, so bravely, so manly
(the alpha-male on the beach)
through the rocks and seaweed,
cracked shells and snails,
finally diving into the churning frigid sea,
swam out and fought my way
along the craggy shoreline just like yesterday,
only this time nobody even noticed.
I brought her her birthday present,
flew all the way across the country
to give her a belated birthday present.
I’m waiting out on her deck to surprise her.
She finally comes home from work
up the side steps to the deck,
smiling and giggling and chattering
with two of her girlfriends
just like the 13-year old beauty I knew so well.
Her hair is dark and long with a ribbon
holding it back, a pink ribbon.
She’s wearing a white sweater.
I’m waiting for her on the deck at the top of the steps.
I thought she would be surprised to see me,
surprised and happy to see me,
waiting there with her present out on her deck.
Suddenly she’s quiet,
stops talking with her girlfriends.
She doesn’t seem to notice me,
(but I know she does),
doesn’t even look at me
as I’m standing there all excited to give her
her present, to see her again after 47 years.
It’s as if I don’t exist, and in reality, I don’t.
She rejected me a long, long time ago
and that’s how it still is.
Some things simply do not change with time.
GETTING THE MESSAGE OUT
The PRINT icon resembles
A toilet tissue dispenser
Ready to fill the sewers
And landfills with messages
That were sent with all due
Urgency by the sender
To masses of recipients
Who couldn’t care less
Overstocked. Must sell now!
Why would they believe that
Advertising their incompetence
will bring customers who seek quality?
Huge Christmas sale!
Espousing values that must
Be the polar opposite of
What Christ lived and died for
This is the best you can get anywhere!
Sometimes there may not be much
Apparent difference between legal
Puffery and blood clots
And to all a good night…
So say the merchants
Who would sell you iron bars
For your bedroom windows.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
The Cold Moon eclipsed so late,
it glowed with a forethought of dawn.
Night creatures drew back into the dark.
We waited by the side of a river—
it glowed with a forethought of dawn,
silent meditation that balances
just at the edge of world and vision.
Night creatures drew back into the dark
as if that were safety—
evolution of some wordless story.
We waited by the side of a river
that flowed with murmuring syllables,
taking our chances that the Sun will rise.
The rats are trying to escape
between door and floor.
They've evolved to prove how thin
the ribcage, fitting into a space
too small for breath.
They're done with us, our rooms
full of apologies and
exhalations, our bread-crumbs
down the drain. Our lights
have gone out again—
flip the switch, nothing works
but rat-power. And sirens,
far away or closer
below the window. Sudden
loud noises. Gunshots
or fireworks. Someone flipped
his life against yesterday.
leave their soles behind,
slipping like ghosts under doors.
And here's the edge of the story,
a hole in what we thought
we know; the next moment,
its gift of change, its possibility
of an unknown glow.
A ROUTE OF EVANESCENCE
A Route of Evanescence
With a revolving Wheel—
A Resonance of Emerald—
A Rush of Cochineal—
And every Blossom on the Bush
Adjusts its tumbled Head—
The mail from Tunis, probably,
An easy Morning's Ride—